Years ago, the Reverend William Sloan Coffin preached a sermon called “In Praise of Rest” about the importance to our spiritual well being of taking time off from all labor. The Hebrew Scriptures tell us to keep holy the Sabbath Day. In Scotland after the Protestant Reformation a law was passed called Sabbatarianism which insisted that shops be closed and the train would not run on Sunday, and here in Massachusetts, in recent memory, we had a thing called the “Blue Laws.” Only the local store was allowed to be open and all others closed. These are extreme positions that just would not work in our time. Our lives have changed and many of us simply have no time for “Holy Leisure” that is restorative not only for our souls but also restorative for our physical and psychological well being.
Our culture runs 24/7 aided and sometimes controlled by gadgets that consume all of our moments even the rare private moments that we might have. For example, in the time it has taken me to write this column, I have paused five times because my Blackberry beeped that I had a message! Bob Herbert, in a July 16th 2010 New York Times Op/Ed writes, “Enough already with this hyper-active behavior, this techno-tyranny and non-stop freneticism. We need to slow down and take a deep breath.” Never a truer statement has been written
Each year the Massachusetts Council of Churches sponsors a program called “Take Back Your Time” and encourages all of us to do just that. This year the day will be held on Sunday, October 24th. This would be a great time to modify our behavior and spend sometime in Holy Rest. Of course I would suggest attending Church but I will leave that decision up to you and your family.
The idea behind this day is to power down and to relax. Turn off all your gadgets, dare I say to include the television, and just relax, read a book, go for a walk, or maybe, this is going to be a very crazy suggestion, talk to your family! Those of you who know me know that I need to practice this as well and I hope to try as best I can to do this on this day. If you cannot power down on the 24th consider picking another day. Perhaps Sunday is a day that you normally have to work, if that is the case; pick another day to use as your “power down” day. The point is we just need to do it.
This past New Years, I made a resolution to take a day that would be technology free. I have done better than I thought I would and have been able to spend some time without any technology to include my beloved Blackberry. I have noticed that I was a much calmer person during and after this day. I will continue to try and keep this up as time goes on.
In December of 2009 it was reported that 286 million cell phone subscribers sent 152.7 billion text messages per month for an average of 534 messages per subscriber. That is a tremendous amount of communication. I wonder how many of those text massages were so important that it could not wait until you were face to face. I am sure I am way above the average number of messages sent each month!
We all rely on technology and it is very difficult for many of us to be able to shut off the technology but believe me you will be a much happier person if you could just try. Take one day this month and do just that. Leave the phone at home, shut off the email, and just go and do something that you have always wanted to do. You will notice that your soul will be at rest and your head will clear, and if you are like me, your thumbs will get less of a work out from sending all those text messages.
On October 24th take a break and take back your time.
V. Rev. Fr. Peter Preble is the Pastor of St. Michael’s Orthodox Christian Church in Southbridge. Read more of Fr. Peter’s writings on his blog at http://www.frpeterpreble.com/
Originally published in the October 15, 2010 edition of the Southbridge Evening News